Refresher Course

Rate change also means changes in stamps

By Michael Baadke

The three stamps shown in Figure 1 all have several things in common. They're all lick-and-stick style commemoratives, they all have perforations, and they're all in full color.

Figure 1. Most recent U.S. postage stamps pay the 32¢ rate for a first-class letter weighing 1 ounce or less.
 
Figure 2. Once the new postage rates are established, the Postal Service usually issues a variety of stamps to make it convenient for the mailer to pay for outgoing mail.

There's one other thing about them that's also pretty obvious. They all have the number "32" on them.

This figure on the stamp is called the "denomination," and it tells the face value of the stamp.

Face value is the amount the stamp is worth as postage. In this case, those three stamps are each worth 32¢ in postage. That is the current rate that must be paid to mail a first-class letter weighing 1 ounce or less within the United States.

Most United States stamps issued since the beginning of 1995 have had a face value of 32¢. That's when the last increase in letter-rate postage went into effect.

When that postage increase first occurred, the Postal Service issued stamps that had no denomination printed on them. Instead, these stamps were imprinted with a large letter "G" and an American flag on a white background.

It takes many months to design and print postage stamps, so these nondenominated stamps were printed long before the new first-class rate was decided.

Two stories on page 1 of the July 21 issue of Linn's reported on the next planned postage rate hike from the United States Postal Service. It's already known that when the rate increase takes place (probably in the spring of 1998), the Postal Service will issue "H" stamps that will have the same value as the new letter rate.

That new letter rate is expected to be 33¢, just 1¢ more than the current rate.

During the last rate change the Postal Service also made available specially designated "G" stamps that could be used for rates other than the first-class letter rate.

For instance, the price of mailing a first-class postcard went up at the beginning of 1995. The previous rate was 19¢, and it increased to 20¢. The Postal Service printed up millions of "G" postcard rate stamps, which were placed on sale for 20¢ when the rate increased.

The "G" postcard rate stamps had a yellow background, and included the words "Postcard Rate" on the stamp.

When the next rate increase takes place, it's unknown if the Postal Service will issue "H" postcard rate stamps. The increase for postcard rate is expected to be 1¢ again, for a new rate of 21¢.

There are many stamps that are sold at the post office that are created for specific rates. As noted previously, the rate for mailing a postcard within the United States is currently 20¢, so the Postal Service has regularly made 20¢ stamps available for that purpose.

The most recent 20¢ stamp from the Postal Service depicts the blue jay, shown at top left in Figure 2. Each of the 11 denominations in that illustration have a specific purpose.

23¢. Several varieties of 23¢ stamps are available to pay the additional postage required if a letter exceeds 1 ounce in weight. If the mailer has already placed a 32¢ stamp on the envelope, the 23¢ stamp pays the extra postage needed to fulfill the rate for a letter weighing more than 1 ounce (up to 2 ounces).

32¢. As described previously, the 32¢ stamp pays the first-class letter rate of 1 ounce or less. The Yellow Rose stamp in Figure 2 is commonly seen on daily mail.

46¢. Mail to Canada from the United States costs more than mail sent within the United States. The 46¢ stamp pays the letter rate to Canada for up to 1 ounce of mail.

50¢. The Postal Service usually has 50¢ stamps on hand, simply because it's a handy value to help pay postage on packages or larger mailed items. The stamp shown was issued with a special purpose, however, as 50¢ is also the current rate for a postcard mailed overseas.

55¢. The Postal Service offers 55¢ stamps for mailers who send first-class items weighing more than 1 ounce and up to 2 ounces. That amount is the result of adding the 32¢ first-class rate and the 23¢ "second ounce rate" described previously.

60¢. The 60¢ rate fulfills another overseas mail rate, for a letter weighing ½ ounce or less.

78¢. Add another 23¢ to the 55¢ rate previously described, and the result is 78¢. The 78¢ stamp, therefore, pays the rate for first-class mail within the United States weighing more than 2 ounces, up to 3 ounces.

$1. Another overseas rate is fulfilled by the $1 stamp: it pays the rate for a letter mailed overseas weighing more than a ½ ounce, up to 1 ounce. The increase for the second ½ ounce, therefore, is 40¢.

Two other stamps remain in Figure 2.

$3. The current rate for Priority Mail up to 2 pounds is $3.

$10.75. This high-value stamp pays the current rate for many Express Mail packages mailed within the United States.

Any of these stamps can be used in combination with other stamps to fill any given postage rate. That is to say, just because the stamps fulfill a certain rate doesn't mean they can only be used for that rate.

When the postage rates change again, many of the rates described here may change. Collectors and mailers are likely to see a new selection of stamps to pay for the increased cost of mailing.

Although no one likes to pay more money for postal services, it's always a little exciting to see what new subjects will appear on the new stamps that will be issued.